10 principles for new media planners
Media planning keeps evolving as a discipline, as does the talent that is hired. What are media agencies telling the next generation of strategists?
At this time of the year in VCCP towers we begin our preparations to welcome a new intake of novice planners from our open-to-all entry level talent programme, The Table. I offer the following 10 principles as a ‘where to start’ guide.
First, do no evil
The Conscious Advertising Network’s six manifestoes highlight the conscious choices we can make to ensure ethical practice in media and provide practical ‘how to’ guidance.
Representation matters and it’s an area where media can really make a positive difference.
See, for example, Channel 4’s brilliant Black to Front. In paid media we need to commit to actively placing investment with publishers who reach diverse audiences. It supports those publishers, who support those communities, and it drives return for advertisers.
Talk to the whole market, all of the time
In what for many is an advertising bible Byron Sharp’s ‘How Brands Grow’ sets out seven rules of engagement. First among them is ‘continuously reach all buyers of a category’. For the typical FMCG, around half of all sales come from the 80% of customers who don’t usually buy the brand.
So for Sharp, you’re much better off talking to all buyers, not just your loyal buyers or heavy category buyers. This inevitably means talking to some people who might not buy you any time soon.
But to build a long term brand you need to talk to tomorrow’s customers today.
Plan across the whole funnel
One of the shiniest jewels in the treasure trove that is the IPA’s EffWorks is Binet and Field’s The Long and the Short of It. Drawing lessons from thirty years of effectiveness data they conclude that investing in long-term (3+ years) brand-building using mass media delivers double the profit of a short-term approach (less than 1 year) but that the biggest returns are won through mixing both approaches; roughly 60:40 in favour of brand work (it varies a bit by category, e.g. financial services is 80:20).
So as media planners we need to think about the whole marketing funnel across brand awareness, consideration and conversion.
Pay attention to attention
You can’t have any effect without capturing attention, so ‘attention’ is a very hot topic in media. Defining and measuring attention turns out to be far from straightforward. We need to avoid tying ourselves in knots, as The Media Leader recently reported, and focus instead on what we can do within our media planning to drive attention.
In media, you are the company you keep
Ads pick up some characteristics of the channels, publishers, titles and shows they appear in, and also from the other advertisers who share those media spaces. Just like when you were at school. Who you hang out with matters.
Maximise the multi-channel multiplier
Essentially, the more channels in which a brand message is encountered, the richer and stronger the mental shortcuts created. Some of this multiplier effect is the product of added frequency.
But there’s more to it. Shazia Ginai talks about furnishing a brand room in our minds, which I find a useful construct. Different channels interact to boost the performance of others. Thinkbox provides links to research and a handy summary table of halo effects between channels here.
Don’t fall into the salami slicer
More channels is better, to a point, but don’t spend tiny amounts of money on a smorgasbord of channels. To do so defuses your efforts such that they are so weak they make no impact at all. 10 X 0 impact = 0 impact. Look at each channel’s reach and the combined reach and frequency of your plan. Has everything on your plan earned its place?
Data is dead. Long live data!
Long story short: people don’t want to be tracked, legislators don’t want people to be tracked, and the 3rd party cookie technology that has allowed us to track people is being retired. So we’re going to have to find different targeting techniques.
Planning around contextual relevance, and thinking about the role of priming will be key, together with an increased focus on physical location data as a basis for targeting. This can be augmented with a wide array of open and commercial data to build audience segments resolved at a micro-geo-targeting level.
Measure, test, measure again
One happy artefact of the demise of tracking tech will be a reduced obsession with short term mechanical media outcomes (impressions, views, clicks) and a greater focus on business outcomes. At VCCP Media we’re already seeing a substantial shift towards experimental design and A/B testing, helping us optimise to KPIs that link directly to business objectives.
And delivering on business objectives is and always has been the point for advertisers of investing in media. Amidst all the rapid change we see, that remains a constant and I think these principles are constant too.
What makes media exciting is what today’s new planning talent will build off of those foundations through innovation, creativity, new insights, tools and techniques. As they start their careers, wish them luck.
Steve Taylor is joint chief strategy officer at VCCP Media
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